Carl Albert State College Power I program specialist
Ashley Watts, Power I program specialist at Carl Albert State College, recently received the Making It Work Day Spotlight Award from the Oklahoma Career and Technical Education Equity Council.
She was one of 12 Oklahomans honored, along with four businesses and organizations, at the 27th annual Making It Work Day at the Capitol in a virtual ceremony April 30. Making It Work Day recognizes individuals who are committed to removing barriers to success for single-parent families by providing educational experiences for students beyond the classroom. The ceremony also recognized nontraditional students.
Watts’ life experiences and work history have helped her provide support to students, said Ramona Smith, director of the Power I program, who nominated Watts for the award.
Watts began as a part-time office manager with a passion for helping people and soon began working toward a bachelor’s degree so she would be eligible for a program specialist position when one became available, Smith said.
“She hit the ground running,” Smith said. “The job is very demanding and stressful, but Ashley was determined to succeed. Being a single mother herself, she knew a lot of the challenges her students faced. This job requires you to be quick on your feet, read people and situations daily.”
Watts helps students create resumes, know how to dress for interviews and develop self-confidence, Smith said; she has also helped a student and her family into a safe place after the student reported a domestic violence problem.
In the last year, Smith said, Watts has worked with students dealing with little to no internet service while trying to earn high school equivalency certifications designed to be completed online.
“Every day presents something new to share or help a student through, and Ashley takes it in stride,” Smith said.
OkCTEEC is affiliated with the administrative division of the Oklahoma Association of Career and Technology Education. The council advocates for students pursuing nontraditional careers and for resources for educating single parents.
“The Making It Work Day ceremony is such an important part of OkCTEEC as it publicly acknowledges those students, programs and business partners that have done an outstanding job meeting their career goals,” said KayTee Niquette, Work Prep and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families coordinator at the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. “The event this year is even more important, as we have persevered through a pandemic and still have individuals who have excelled.”
She serves as an adviser for OkCTEEC, along with Lisa French of the Department of Human Services and Gina McPherson of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
The COVID-19 pandemic created challenges, said Lisa D. Brown, OkCTEEC president and director for career transitions at Oklahoma City Community College, but students, faculty, staff and community partners met the challenges head-on, redesigning traditional methods of assistance and education.
“These students have persevered through the many changes in their pursuit of their goals and even some events in their own families,” she said. “In addition to their academic success, they have strengthened even more skills in communication, collaboration, adaptation and endurance that will be of great benefit as valuable life skills they will never forget they developed or discovered they had.”
OkCTEEC’s purposes include promoting and supporting career and technology education, increasing its effectiveness, promoting research in the field and in educational equity, developing leadership and advocating for equity and diversity.